LGBT issues

  • September 14, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Pamela S. Karlan, Kenneth and Harle Montgomery Professor of Public Interest Law and Co-Director of the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic at Stanford Law School

    *This piece was originally posted on Stanford Law School Blog

    Edie Windsor had a signature set of pearls and a signature set of advice: “Don’t postpone joy” and “Keep it hot.” In the five years I knew her, no one followed that advice more resolutely.

    I began working on Edie’s challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) on July 4, 2012, when Robbie Kaplan, who was representing her, sent me an email asking if I was interested in helping out. We often say about the Stanford Supreme Court Litigation Clinic (which I co-direct with Jeff Fisher) that we serve as local counsel, only our locale is the U.S. Supreme Court. Robbie brought me in to help with a petition for cert. before judgment; Edie was 83 years old and there was then no telling how long proceedings in the Second Circuit might take. (As it turned out, the Second Circuit issued a ruling in our favor with unusual dispatch.)

  • September 5, 2017
    Guest Post

    Andy Blevins, Legal & Policy Manager, OutServe-SLDN

    Serving in our nation’s military is undeniably one of the most courageous and selfless acts an individual can make. According to former Defense Secretary Ash Carter, nothing but an individual’s “lack of merit” should prevent them from such service. President Obama agreed: merely being transgender should not disqualify somebody from military service, he said.

    Neither Mr. Carter’s nor President Obama’s statements created a newfound desire to serve this nation: transgender people have been serving alongside us, in silence, forever. In fact, it is estimated that more than 15,000 transgender individuals are currently wearing the cloth of our country. They follow more than 134,000 transgender veterans and precede even more who are standing by, ready to offer their own commitment and dedication to our nation.

  • July 31, 2017

    by Caroline Fredrickson

    First came schools, next came the military.  Four months after the U.S. Department of Education withdrew guidance aimed at protecting transgender students’ rights to use the bathrooms of their choice, President Trump this week tweeted a surprise announcement that banned transgender people from serving in the military.

  • May 3, 2017
    Guest Post

    *This piece originally appeared on Lambda Legal’s blog.

    by Eric Lesh, Fair Courts Project Director, Lambda Legal

    Yesterday, Lambda Legal filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the Oregon Supreme Court arguing that it was unlawful for Judge Vance D. Day to devise a scheme to avoid marrying same-sex couples.

    Judge Day directed court staff to use the court record system to investigate whether couples wishing to marry were of the same sex and, if so, to represent that he was unavailable, rather than unwilling, to marry them.

    “A judge puts on a robe—not a clerical collar—and has a duty to administer the law impartially,” said Peter Renn, senior attorney for Lambda Legal. “No public servant, whether a judge or county clerk, has the right to ‘screen out’ same-sex couples seeking to marry from access to government services on the basis of personal religious beliefs. Everyone who comes before a judge is entitled to receive fair and impartial treatment.”

    “As public servants, judges are required to serve all people, including same-sex couples, without bias or prejudice. When they break that promise, the public loses trust in the courts,” said Eric Lesh, director of Lambda Legal’s Fair Courts Project. “LGBT people and other marginalized communities depend on the courts for justice when they encounter discrimination. But how can they believe they’ll get a fair shake when judges go rogue and themselves engage in discrimination—and defend their right to do so?”

  • April 7, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Katie Eyer, Associate Professor, Rutgers Law School             

    Since the 1970s, gay and lesbian plaintiffs have raised the argument that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is, inherently and necessarily, sex discrimination under Title VII. Such arguments have long had strong doctrinal support. As early as 1978, the Supreme Court made clear that "treatment of a person in a manner which, but for that person's sex, would be different" is discriminatory and prohibited under Title VII. This standard is satisfied in each and every case of sexual orientation discrimination—since by definition in a sexual orientation discrimination case sex-based disparate treatment has occurred (a woman who is fired for marrying a woman would not have been fired for the same conduct had she been a man). Other arguments founded in well-established anti-discrimination doctrine, such as associational discrimination and gender stereotyping, have also been put forward.

    And yet even after the Supreme Court’s decision in Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins—recognizing the doctrine of gender stereotyping, and holding categorically that an employer “may not take gender into account”—most courts have continued to reject the notion that sexual orientation discrimination could be considered a form of sex discrimination. Thus, while most courts did allow gay plaintiffs to bring narrower sex discrimination claims—focused on discrimination targeting deviations from gender-stereotypical appearance or mannerisms—every Court of Appeals until this week had held that sexual orientation itself was not categorically protected under Title VII.

    On Tuesday, breaking from this history, the Seventh Circuit, sitting en banc, took a fresh look at the doctrine and concluded that “discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination.”

    Thus, the Court observed inter alia:

    “Hively alleges that if she had been a man married to a woman (or living with a woman, or dating a woman) and everything else had stayed the same, Ivy Tech would not have refused to promote her and would not have fired her… This describes paradigmatic sex discrimination.